Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bush Invades SC, Met with Protest

More Furman Protest Pics at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27328473@N04/

On May 31st 2008, Bush invaded my homeland of Greenville, SC to speak at Furman University's commencement. Since Greenville is home and Furman is my alma mater, I took a rocky, uncomfortable red-eye train ride from Richmond, VA to South Carolina to ensure that Bush would not continue to think of Greenville and Furman as a conservative haven in which he can hide from the reality he has created. I was not a lone pinker in this endeavor. Many members of Codepink Greenville, Columbia, and Clinton, SC joined the protest rally in front of Furman Hall on Saturday from 1-9 pm. Additionally, over 50-70 organizers, peace organizations, faculty members, and citizens of the state of South Carolina turned out for the rally. Many thanks to the Greenville Antiwar Society and the Furman faculty for organizing the event. Additional groups included, Military Families Speak Out, South Carolina Progressive Network, Carolina Peace Resource Center, Operation Democracy, Aiken Peace, No More Victims, the Freedom Group, SC Green Party, and Veterans for Peace (just want to note that yes, there are liberals in SC). As Bush's motorcade passed the rally upon his entrance and exit to Furman, he was met by protesters drumming and chanting "No more war!" and "Troops home now!" The drum circle continued to drum all the way through Bush's speech and through the graduation ceremony.

The protest actually began a few weeks ago when 225+ Furman faculty, staff, and students signed a petition objecting to Bush being asked to speak at commencement. Their statement is as follows:

Under ordinary circumstances it would be an honor for Furman University to be visited by the President of the United States. However, these are not ordinary circumstances. In the spirit of open and critical review that is the hallmark of both a free democracy and an institution of higher learning, we, the undersigned members of the Furman University community, object to the following actions of the Bush administration:• Claiming a linkage between Iraq and 9-11, and exaggerating the threat of weapons of mass destruction, to justify a new and morally questionable strategy of "pre-emptive warfare" against Iraq - a country that did not attack us and posed no immediate international threat;• Classifying war prisoners as "detained nonmilitary combatants" to permit their detention and interrogation in violation of our own laws and standards of human decency;• Sowing fear and using "threat levels" to side-step the Constitution and justify the erosion of individual liberties, such as challenging the Fourth Amendment (wiretapping without authorization of law) and the First Amendment (denying access to information and restricting dissent to "free speech zones");• Suppressing or ignoring empirical evidence that contradicts administration ideology, such as denying global warming and then obstructing progress on reducing greenhouse gases while favoring billions in tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies that are earning record profits;• Installing lobbyists for the coal, timber, and mining industries as the chief officials in charge of managing and protecting our public lands;• Encouraging reckless over-spending (creating the largest deficits in history), expanding the reach of national government into local affairs (No Child Left Behind), and increasing our involvement overseas at the expense of domestic concerns (reconstructing New Orleans).We are ashamed of these actions of this administration. The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4000 brave and honorable U. S. military personnel, wounded more than 13,000 military personnel so severely that they are unable to return to duty, killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, will cost more than 2 trillion dollars, and has severely damaged our government's ethical and moral credibility at home and abroad. Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values.

31 members of the faculty protested graduation by not attending, 50-100 wore white armbands in protest and displayed "We Object" posters in their office windows, and 15 gutsy faculty members disrobed, wore "We Object" t-shirts, and stood during the duration of Bush's speech. Many in attendance did not stand when Bush entered the stadium. Other students, staff, and family members, stood during Bush's speech, some with their backs turned towards the president with peace signs raised in the air (my Mom, a Furman Employee, and I, adopted this stance). Mom and I also chanted "Killer, Killer" and "War Criminal" upon Bush's entrance into the stadium. We were by far in the minority and were scorned by those around us and flashed loser signs, but we persisted in doing our civic duty.

Note: The President of Furman University, David Shi, was censured by the faculty and staff for not seeking their insight or approval before he invited Bush to campus at the request of Governor Mark Sanford.

Media coverage was solid with national stories on: NPR, CNN, MSNBC, the AP, Michaelmoore.com, Commondreams, etc.

State Coverage was widespread: the State paper, WIS Columbia, Charleston stations, Clemson

Local Coverage was saturated: WHNS, WYFF News 4, WSPA, the Greenville News, the Spartanburg Herald, Asheville Times Citizen

Finally, I would like to stress how unusual such a protest and media coverage of the anti-war movement is in South Carolina and how gutsy and moving it was to see faculty at a small, conservative, Southern liberal arts college stand up in opposition to Bush. Kudos to the faculty. My thanks to them for making me the person I am today. My deepest appreciation and feelings of solidarity also goes out to all Furman alumni who stand in opposition to the war in Iraq.

Peace Always,

Ryan Burgess,
Furman University Class of 1998
Codepink Richmond and Greenville


Anonymous said...

Well done Ryan. I'm happy to know you.

JimPreston said...

Way to go!!!
Be the Peace!!!

des said...

We are so proud of you, Ryan!

Anonymous said...

Ryan maybe when we invade Iran you will join us in defending this great country from radicals who are bent on destroying us. All you people need to wake up.

God Bless America and the great men and women who defend this country even you fuitcakes

William said...

Wow there is like no one blogging on this communist website. I guess my services are no longer required. Semper Fi to all my Marines. May you always fight the good fight against the forces of evil in the world. As for Code Pink your welcome! ooraa!

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